Fonterra had an accord with dairy farmers that they must fence off their streams; however, it did not include the fact that farmers must plant native riparian plantings in order for the pollution to be filtered in a healthy way before meeting the ocean waters.
Forest and Bird volunteers Robyn Jones and John Gilardi began growing plants for riparian work. When they were mature enough for planting, they worked with three other volunteers (often different people) on ten farms in the Aorere Catchment and eight farms in the Motupipi catchment.
Over that whole eight period, they planted 12,000 plants in Motupipi and 23,000 in the Aorere. By 2014, their team had planted a total of 35,000 plants along waterways on dairy farms.
StreamCare volunteers release waterway plants three times and then farmers see they are away without need for further maintenance.
StreamCare will replant if necessary on one of their return trips.
StreamCare needs another nursery on the Takaka side and more volunteers. The farmers pay $2 per plant which offsets some costs.
Two years after the Aorere Catchment Group set out to remedy the problem, mussel farmers could harvest again. It was not only the plantings which caused water quality improvement: the difference was the improved effluent systems that the farmers put on board as well as the new fencing based on the Fonterra accord.
Although at present, fencing is only required on the edges of the creeks, the majority of farmers StreamCare has worked with have placed fences three-four metres from the stream edge because they wish to improve their eco-practices.
The Motupipi catchment was the most polluted in the Tasman District and it was not because of the mussel farms here; it was because the Fonterra Factory sprayed a nutrient onto the paddocks which in turn raised nutrient levels in the water.
The intensification of dairy has caused these complex interactions between waterways, nutrient levels, harmful bacteria and run-off and dramatically increased the need for riparian work.
Streamcare is an educational project to show the farmers how to care for the water and the land. It was not set up to do the whole job. Streamcare is good at working with farmers, encouraging them, and showing them how to restore health to their waterways.
The project can only expand if farmers get on board with fencing. Lots of farmers may still not know that Streamcare exists.
Ultimately, it is only the enforcement of the Fonterra accords that will restore better ecological health to the waterways of Golden Bay. According to the accords, within 15 years, all farmers must have fenced waterways and riparian plantings on streams more than a metre wide and a 300mm deep.
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